In this section you’ll find participants’ accounts of responding to overdose and the use of take-home naloxone. The people and stories in this section were carefully selected to highlight the diversity in backgrounds and experiences. While this website is not able to tell every possible story of overdose and take-home naloxone in Australia, it can show just how different people and their experiences are. In the stories can be found details of the many important concerns and circumstances our participants negotiated in saving lives in the community.
This section does not include the experiences of all participants. As it focusses on personal experiences of overdose and take-home naloxone, participants who had not encountered overdose or used naloxone do not appear. Overall, 26 of the 46 people who consume opioids are included. The remaining 20 had not encountered opioid overdose or in one case was not able to recount such events in enough detail to create a story for the site.
The stories presented here rely on participant reports of overdose. Some experiences may not conform to medical definitions of overdose, and some responses described may not reflect medical advice.
While these narratives were written from the interview transcripts and rely on their own words, some aspects have been paraphrased to improve coherence and readability. In making these changes we have worked hard to remain faithful to participants’ original meaning and intentions. Some experiences may also be presented in other sections of the website, using more detailed quotations.
Preferred Name: Simone
Age: Late 40s
Who is Simone?
Simone lives in a regional centre in Victoria. She describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: like her mother, Simone was born in Australia while her father was born in Germany. Simone lives with her partner and child, and her primary source of income is a Commonwealth Disability Support Pension*. She also volunteers as a peer worker at the local needle and syringe program. Simone carries take-home naloxone in her bag at all times and has reversed a number of overdoses
Simone describes an occasion when her friend Laura overdosed at her house. Because Laura hadn’t taken heroin recently, Simone encouraged her to take only half the amount she had, but Laura took the full amount and began to overdose. Simone injected her with naloxone, but this didn’t immediately revive her, so she called an ambulance and gave Laura CPR until she started to revive, and at that point the ambulance arrived. The paramedics gave her three more shots of naloxone, and Laura recovered. The other times Simone used naloxone, the person overdosing came to immediately. Simone would like naloxone to be accessible for everyone who takes opioids.
I rang the ambulance and gave her mouth-to-mouth, but then I couldn’t hear her heartbeat and had to give her CPR. She was coming around by the time the ambulance arrived, and then the paramedics gave her three more shots of naloxone and she came to, but she didn’t want to go in the ambulance. She didn’t want people to know she was a drug user; it was taboo for her. As a nurse, she was worried about losing her job.
Laura still comes over, and if she wants to take heroin, I always remind her of what happened, and not to have a full dose. I think because she just wanted to get stoned the time she overdosed, she didn’t want to halve the dose, like I suggested.
I’ve given people naloxone four times. I’ve felt confident about doing it; you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I’ve just injected it in their arm or leg and they’ve come around straight away. I always carry some naloxone with me, so that if I’m around anybody who overdoses, I can try to save their life.
Because I’m a drug user, I’ve always been interested in drugs and alcohol; actually I’ve got a diploma in alcohol and other drugs. I wanted to participate in this project because I know a lot of people on drugs, and if I can do something that might stop someone dying, I will do it.
Reflecting on the availability of take-home naloxone, Simone said, ‘I think all drug users should be able to access it and they should be trained about it, especially drug dealers, because a lot of the time people will use at their house. I think everyone should have access to it if they are users of opiates.’
Simone (F, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) details her life-saving actions when her a friend overdosed at her house.
Yeah, the first time I used naloxone was on one of my best friends. She hadn’t used heroin for a while, and I tried to tell her to only use half a dose of what she had, and she wouldn’t listen to me and she used the whole of what she had, and she [overdosed]. So I give her a shot of naloxone and she wouldn’t come back, so I had to ring the ambulance. And then I had to give her mouth-to-mouth, and then I couldn’t hear her heartbeat, so then I had to give her CPR. By then the ambulance had come, and they had given her three more shots of naloxone and she come to. But she didn’t want to go in the ambulance, and she didn’t want people to know that she was a drug user. So, it was really taboo for her. Yeah, that’s the most serious time. The other three times I’ve just … people have [overdosed] in front of me and I’ve just given the naloxone in their arm or in their leg and they’ve come straight through.
Simone (F, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) describes an overdose when her partner hadn’t consumed what she thought of as ‘a lot’ of heroin. In this instance, it only took one dose of naloxone to revive him.
It was my daughter’s father. He had just … he hadn’t used for a while, but he didn’t tell me that. I didn’t give him a lot, and then he just dropped, so I gave him the shot of naloxone and he came through [or came to], but he wouldn’t listen to me to just sit down and rest or anything like that […] He didn’t really know what had happened to him, so I had to explain why I was telling him to sit down and relax.
Describing an event that occurred at a private residence, Simone (F, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) recounts trying to revive a friend who overdosed at her home. She gave her friend a dose of naloxone and remembers quickly realising she would need more but had run out. In her interview she describes ringing an ambulance and then taking a range of steps to keep her friend alive while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Yeah, the first time I used naloxone was on one of my best friends. She hadn’t used heroin for a while and I tried to tell her to only use half a dose of what she had, but she wouldn’t listen to me and she used the whole of what she had, and she overdosed. So I gave her a shot of naloxone and she wouldn’t come back, so I had to ring the ambulance. And then I had to give her mouth-to-mouth, and then I couldn’t hear her heartbeat, so then I had to give her CPR. By then the ambulance had come and they had given her three more shots of naloxone and she come to. But she didn’t want to go in the ambulance, and she didn’t want people to know that she was a drug user. It was really taboo for her. Yeah, that’s the most serious time.
Speaking about communication, Simone (F, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) had to explain to her partner what had happened, as he didn’t realise he had overdosed.
He didn’t really know what had happened to him, so I had to explain why I was telling him to sit down and relax […] Yeah, he was alert. He just didn’t know what had happened, so I had to explain to him that ‘you dropped, you dropped’ and I had to give him the naloxone to bring him through [it].
Referring to interactions with healthcare professionals, Simone (F, late 40s, Vic, non-prescribed opioids) says that take-home naloxone is one of the ‘main things’ that doctors should speak about with their patients.
Yeah, everyone should be able to access it – every user should be able to access it. When you’re in the doctors’ and getting your prescription every so many months to take it to the chemist, the doctor never asks you if you want a script for naloxone, which they should. Or [they could ask] ‘Are you educated around it?’ or ‘Would you like to be?’ That’s never mentioned, which I think is wrong. That should be one of the main things they ask you [at] the doctors’, but they don’t […] The needle and syringe program just mentioned it to me, but no doctor has ever asked me about it, which I think they should, yeah.